Government interventions in agricultural markets seldom lead to the desired outcome. I expressed this view when the Zimbabwean government banned sales of maize by farmers to anyone other than the government’s Grain Marketing Board at a prescribed price in June 2019. This move led to farmers withholding their produce, instead of delivering it to the Grain Marketing Board. The result was ultimately a scarcity of maize in the market, which inevitably did not address the government’s concerns of consumer well-being (affordable food by setting lower maize prices). This week, this realisation kicked home. And thus, the Zimbabwean government lifted the ban on private grain sales and granted the nod to individuals and corporates to import quantities of their choice.

Domestic view

Here in South Africa, there are sufficient maize supplies for the current marketing year which ends in April 2020. Hence, the focus has somewhat shifted to 2019/20 planting season which starts later this month. In this process, the weather will be a central focus until February 2020 when the new season crop, which is about to be planted, has pollinated. As best as we can tell, the season ahead promises above-normal rainfall in the central and eastern parts of South Africa, which is supportive of maize and other summer crops. I have no concrete view about the weather forecast for the western regions of the country for the upcoming season. But it’s quite rare to see above-normal rainfall in the eastern regions and dryness in the west. Hence, I suspect that western areas could also receive good moisture, which would bode well for the 2019/20 production season.

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